Thanks to the way I see movies at festivals, there are films that sometimes end up on my year-end lists that haven’t had a full commercial release yet, and last year, “Cheap Thrills” managed to muscle its way onto my top ten list. I’ve seen it four times, and I remain completely smitten with the way the film makes the absolute most of its jet-black comedy premise.
This morning, we’re lucky enough to premiere not one but two new posters for the film, part of a four-poster character campaign that Drafthouse Films is launching.
If you’re not familiar with the film yet, it’s got a very simple set-up. E.L. Katz directed from a script by Trent Haaga and David Chirchirillo, and it tells the story of a guy named Craig (Pat Healy) who loses his job and has no idea how to go home and tell his wife Audrey (Amanda Fuller) and face his baby daughter. He runs into a shady old friend Vince (Ethan Embry) at a bar, and the two of them run into a couple named Violet (Sara Paxton) and Colin (David Koechner) who are out for a night on the town, celebrating her birthday, and playing some wild games.
In many ways, “Cheap Thrills” is a very simple four-person thriller, and it was written to be shot on essentially two locations. It is a great example of how to make the most of your money, and while the film is very, very small in scale, it feels gigantic because of how big the emotional stakes are for the various characters.
Colin, played by Koechner, appears to be independently wealthy, and while the film never really explains where he made his money, there’s something great and vile in the way Koechner plays the character. He is willing to do anything to entertain his wife, and that’s dangerous when you’ve got unlimited cash and no moral compass.
Here’s Colin in all his slimy glory:
And then there’s Violet. Sara Paxton has worked with Pat Healy before in the very good Ti West film “The Innkeepers,” and the chemistry the two of them had in that film was very funny. She’s sort of adorable and cool and funny and suitably terrified in the moments she should be, and Healy plays the voice of skepticism with a dry wit.
This time out, they’re playing completely different characters, with completely different dynamics. Violet is the biggest question mark in the film. What drives her, what she really thinks, what she gets out of the constant games… Paxton plays her cards close to the vest, and it’s a really interesting energy to play off of Koechner’s low-fi menace. This is one of the first times he’s played someone overtly scary in a film, but it was just a matter of time. Koechner has a way of looking at someone that makes them feel like they’ve done something terribly wrong.
Here’s Violet, a lovely and totally toxic li’l flower:
I can’t wait for you guys to see this one.
Here’s my original review.
Here’s my top ten list for 2013.
“Cheap Thrills“ will be available exclusively on the Movies On Demand platform of Time Warner Cable, Comcast, Cox Communications and Bright House Networks on February 21. It will be in select theaters & digital VOD platforms on March 21.